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Who knew that the legalization of hemp could spark advancements that are truly out of this world?
Front Range Biosciences is collaborating with SpaceCells USA Inc. and BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to transport hemp and coffee plant cultures to space to examine zero gravity’s effect on the plants’ metabolic pathways.

Front Range Biosciences is an agriculture biotech company that specializes in tissue culture propagation and breeding of hemp, coffee, and other high-value crops to improve consistency and efficiency for clone and seed production.

The culture samples will be placed aboard the SpaceX CRS-20 cargo flight scheduled for March 2020 to be transported to the International Space Station where the experiment will take place to look at how plant cells undergo genetic mutation while in space.

Once aboard the ISS, up to 480 plant cell cultures will be contained in a temperature-regulated, space-made incubator for about 30 days, with environmental conditions monitored remotely at CU Boulder by BioServe.

After the allotted time, the culture samples will return to Earth where they will be examined and evaluated by researchers at Front Range Biosciences to determine how microgravity and space radiation exposure affected the plants’ genetic expression.

In the end, the results of this research could aid in the discovery of new varieties and chemical expressions in the plants. It will also allow scientists to better comprehend how plants manage space travel which will, of course, open doors to other advancements and research for the company and the industry.

Peter McCullagh, CEO of SpaceCells states: “These are big ideas we’re pursuing and there’s a massive opportunity to bring to market new Chemotypes, as well as Plants that can better adapt to drought and cold conditions. We expect to prove through these and other missions that we can adapt the food supply to climate change.”

“This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures,” Front Range CEO Dr. Jonathan Vaught says in a statement. “There is science to support the theory that plants in space experience mutations. This is an opportunity to see whether those mutations hold up once brought back to earth and if there are new commercial applications.”

The study will be funded by SpaceCells, a company that studies the effects of microgravity on Earth’s biology, including disease cells and vegetation, for commercial purposes.
The crew doesn’t believe that this will be the only mission.

“We envision this to be the first of many experiments together,” BioServe chief scientist Louis Stodieck predicts. “In the future, we plan for the crew to harvest and preserve the plants at different points in their grow-cycle so we can analyze which metabolic pathways are turned on and turned off. This is a fascinating area of study that has considerable potential.”

Information sourced from: Westword, Front Range Biosciences, and Cision PR Newswire.

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